I am a feminist lawyer, policy analyst and Executive Director of a Harare-based non-governmental organisation called The Women’s Trust. I provide training in leadership and personal empowerment with the main focus on capacitating women to engage with governance processes and attain decision-making positions. I have published the Power Stepping Pocket Book for girls as my personal contribution to encouraging young women to think about power, leadership and change. I have also published Secrets of a Woman’s Soul, a novel based on the true story of my mother’s death from AIDS, and my experience of living positively.
The Women’s Trust led a massive and successful national campaign to get women to stand as candidates and vote for other women in the historic March 2008 elections in Zimbabwe. We have documented our experiences of the “Women Can Do It” Campaign in an information-sharing book titled, Lessons in Advocacy. We are poised to be the regional centre for leadership and governance in training Southern Africa.
I call myself a feminist because I believe in women’s power and I am passionate about the need for women to realise their full potential and for society to accept women as full human beings and citizens. I feel privileged to be part of the band of “Mad Women” that have shaped social reality and continue to do so, knowing that what I do today is contributing to a new world order where women no longer have to argue for the legitimacy of their existence.
The growth of religious fundamentalism is one of our biggest threats. There has been a renewal of the “good woman syndrome” (i.e. promoting a very narrow definition of what it means to be a respectable woman), and it is more diffi cult to manage because this time around educated women are leading it. They are appropriating feminist language for their own use with words like empowerment, leadership, spirituality, development and wealth creation. In my own work I use The Woman’s Bible, a text from the 19th century which analyses the bias in religious teachings. It is part of the leadership curriculum at The Women’s Trust, where we use it as a tool to discuss how religion and religious teaching has been misinterpreted and used against us as women.
A second threat is that political crises in countries like Zimbabwe have forced an almost complete focus on so-called bread and butter issues, and have meant that strategic concerns for women (including accessing safe abortions, sexual rights, rights concerns for women living with HIV) are deemed unimportant. We need to challenge this as we work on strengthening the feminist movement, ensuring that we stay networked through collaborative activities and information sharing on regional, continental and global events.